Ginny felt her cheeks with her fingers-- both were like ice. She quickly tucked her hands back into her sleeves and hugged herself.
How long have we been waiting out here, anyway? Ginny sighed.
"Ginny, it hasn't been that long..." Neville tried to ease Ginny's irritation while he rubbed his hands together. "Luna must been running a bit late, that's all." Neville looked as though he was trying to convince himself of that, also.
"You're right Neville," Hermione agreed kindly. "Luna is not about to skive off a Hogsmeade trip with us."
Ginny scuffled her foot on the frost bitten ground. They'd agreed to meet the Ravenclaw outside Quality Quidditch Supplies-- which, in retrospect, was a poor idea this time of year. They just had not considered the frigid cold.
"Maybe it just takes Ravenclaw longer to get here," Ron suggested, stamping his feet.
"No, it doesn't." Harry spoke, half-heartedly, for the first time that afternoon, his arms clutched at his front. Ginny saw Harry's cheeks tinge a slight pink and she grimaced at the thought of Harry's last trip to Hogsmeade.
Harry scowled back at her. "What?"
"Nothing." Ginny turned around, looking determinedly at the collector's Striker 157 in the window.
"Why don't you just leave me alone, mind yourself, not me..."
Harry's words from their argument the night before echoed in her head.
Ginny shook herself. There was no use dwelling on their fight now. After all, I was just wanted to help, and he was such a prat, she thought, angrily fingering the worn sleeves of her coat.
"Harry, we need to talk," Ginny spoke quietly.
"What?" He grinned up at her, and the grin told Ginny he was up to some sort of trick. Normally she would've gotten to the bottom of it... but there was a bigger dragon to slay that evening. Harry needed a serious talking to.
"What?" Harry asked again. "Ginny? Ginny?"
"Ginny?" She was broken out of her reverie by Neville's voice. "Ginny, Luna's coming, we'll be warming up soon."
Indeed, Luna was walking down the road, looking very much as though she had merely wandered this way by chance. And, to Ginny's chagrin, also looking as though she was as warm as she would be on a summer's day.
"Hello," Luna said breathlessly to the group. She nodded at Ginny. "You're angry."
Ginny froze, stunned for a moment, then mumbled, "I'm cold."
"So can we go someplace now?" Ron asked impatiently. "I'm freezing my arse off."
"Ron!" Hermione reprimanded.
"How about The Three Broomsticks?" Neville offered, shivering.
Ginny shrugged. "Why not?" Her nose was growing numb.
As the group walked down the icy street, Neville and Luna dropped back, conversing enthusiastically about a Nargle article in The Quibbler. Hermione was walking at a fast pace, with her hair, stiff and icy, swinging behind her. Ginny watched Ron surreptitiously slide his hand into Hermione's.
"I saw that," Ginny muttered to herself.
"About time, right?" Harry was looking down at Ginny with a cheeky grin. She suppressed her instinct to smile back and turned away. "Listen--Ginny--I--"
"It's very full," Hermione announced, breaking into what Harry had begun to say, for which Ginny was grateful. She wasn't sure if she wanted to hear it. "There's only one table left, and it's for two. We can go somewhere else..."
"No," Harry said. "You two take it, have fun. You shouldn't be going about with us anyway."
Ginny felt a familiar surge in her chest and she had to smile at Harry's understanding. They both knew Ron and Hermione were only with them because of Harry and Ginny's great row the night before. "We'll see you later," Ginny added.
Hermione looked fit to argue, but Ron just chuckled. "Thanks." At that, the pair disappeared into the crowd.
A gust of freezing wind blew through the four students remaining. Ginny's teeth chattered as it cut through her cloak and nipped at her neck.
"Should we find somewhere to go, then?" Ginny asked in a high-pitched voice.
There was a general nod of assent and they continued down the street.
Ginny's legs felt stiff from the cold as they walked. She listened to the padding of their feet on the cobblestone street and got lost in her thoughts again.
"Harry, I know why you're behaving like this." She had cornered him in the common room late last night.
His face fell. "Like what?"
"One minute you're playing jokes and laughed, and the next..." she trailed off.
"The next?" His eyes began to glint cagily, horribly, and Ginny was reminded of their short shouting match last Christmas.
"You'll have lapsed into a fit of the sullens, all angry and sorry for yourself."
"I am not sorry for myself!" He ended loudly, causing Ginny's temper to rise.
"Then maybe you just feel misunderstood!"
"Maybe that's because no one can understand!"
"Well, you certainly aren't helping it, are you? You've got to go and be such a prat--" By now, they were both at their feet, yelling, and a few of the students who slept closest to the common room had their heads peeking around the staircase to see what the ruckus was.
"You know what, Ginny--why don't you just leave me alone, mind yourself, not me... just mind your own bloody business!"
Tears begun springing into her eyes again and she blinked them away with irritation. She had behaved like an idiot after that--reverting back to her old self, blushing and running up the stairs. Her face threatened to turn a deep crimson at the very thought of it.
Of course, what he said had hurt her a lot.
"How about here?" Luna was pointing to a white wooden door that led into an unfortunately recognizable interior.
"Madame Puddifoot's?" Harry asked, incredulous. "You can't be serious. There's--"
"No way in hell I'm going in there." Ginny finished the thought and backed away. With the choice between death by cold and death by frilly doilies and lace, the former seemed much more appealing.
"Oh." Luna looked vaguely disappointed, and realization clicked in Ginny's mind.
"Wait--no--" Ginny stammered to stop the rest from leaving. "You two run on in, Harry and I have to go to Eyelop's, we have a letter for Mum."
Harry looked taken aback, and Ginny nudged his arm.
"Er...right...owl," he mumbled lamely. "See you guys later."
Ginny grabbed Harry's arm and trotted him off, but not before noticing the triumphant look on Luna's face--and the terrified one of Neville's.
"What was that all about?" he asked once they were much further down the street. They stood in front of the Shrieking Shack, which was deserted. The arctic air was seeping through Ginny's skin, and she shivered.
"Well," Ginny said, teeth chattering, "I figured they could use some time alone."
Ginny looked at him in disbelief. "Because..." She made an exaggerated pining look and a pantomimed swooning motion.
Comprehension lit in Harry's eyes, and he laughed. "Oh, Luna!" He grabbed Ginny's hand, twirled her around, and dipped her.
Ginny exclaimed "Shag me rotten, Neville-baby!" and placed her hand over Harry's mouth, at which point she pressed him into the gate. Attacking the back of her own hand, Ginny vaguely realized that Harry's cheeks were frozen as much as hers.
Ginny and Harry slid down the fence and sat, laughing, alongside each other. It's nice, Ginny reflected. It's almost back to normal. And it's just Harry and me.
When the smallest of chuckles had subsided, Harry spoke up. "I can't believe I didn't realize. Looking back, it seems obvious."
Ginny snickered, crossed her arms, and leaned back onto a frigid clapboard.
"Of course, I have this knack for ignoring what's right in front of me."
Ginny stopped breathing for a second and inwardly balked. It could mean anything... it could mean anything...
"I'm really sorry about what I said last night."
Ginny looked up at Harry's face. It was turning pink from what she supposed was the cold, and his eyes were boring painfully into her own.
"You were only trying to help."
"Don't be condescending." Harry looked surprised at Ginny's bitter remark. Frankly, Ginny was surprised also. "I am not a child. I wanted to help, yes. But I don't need to try to do anything, I--"
"That's not what--"
"You think I'm too young to understand, don't you?"
"No, not at all, I just--"
"You also thought I was to young to fight at the Ministry of Magic last year-- Harry, I fought him--"
"Ginny!" Harry yelled and jumped up, his breath crystallizing in front of him. "I was trying to apologize!"
Ginny realized that she had come out the idiot two arguments in a row. Fighting the urge to blush or run off, she slowly stood to be on even ground with him. "You were doing a pretty shoddy job of apologizing, then."
"You weren't making it any easier." He got a strange look in his eyes, and Ginny remembered a girl who once said something quite akin to that in the past.
"Fine." She blew into her hands to warm them up.
"Fine. Now I'm sorry I yelled at you last night. You wanted to help me, and I wanted to wallow in one of my ‘fits of the sullens'." The ghost of a smile appeared on his face.
"And I'm sorry I took you for granted at the end of last year. You were younger that I was when you first fought Lord Voldemort."
Harry held up his hand. "The time when I was a baby doesn't count."
"Okay." Ginny gave a tight smile that didn't reach her eyes, and turned away, studying the Shrieking Shack's knotted siding. "I--"
"Wait. I'm not done yet." Hesitatingly, Harry grabbed Ginny's hand. Ginny watched him seem to come to a decision. "Ginny, I'm also sorry about overlooking you through the past four years."
Ginny tried to protest, but Harry cut her off. His hand felt startlingly warm in hers.
"It didn't--I should've--I was a prat," he stammered. "I didn't see the wonderful thing-- the beautiful girl-- in front of me." He squeezed her hand. "And I was hoping that maybe…"
"I would meet you in the third floor broom cupboard tomorrow?" Ginny grinned up at Harry. He seemed relieved to see her smile.
"Well, I was going to ask you to the next Hogsmeade trip alone, but your idea works too," he smirked.
"Hogsmeade it is, then," Ginny murmured, and took a step closer to Harry. She was fully intent on kissing his cheek, just enough to keep him guessing, but that didn't work out.
He bent down and kissed her.
As they walked back into the busy village, Harry took Ginny's hand. A chill ran up her back...but it had nothing to do with the cold.